Insomnia

In American society, there is a type of medicine to control (medicalization) or enhance (biomedicalization) virtually every disease, illness, and now bodily function. American’s rely so much on medicine because they feel it gives them freedom over their body. In our culture, freedom is the most ideological concept associated with America. Being known as “the land of the free” and all of our advancements in technology both play a part in the medicalization of different conditions. People love having hundreds of different medical procedures at their disposal, and they love the fact that they get to be a part of the revolutionary changes that medicine has brought about.  Another big part is the way medicine is relayed to us through media. Every day, thousands of people with hundreds of different medical conditions are referred to all kinds of different medicine, and these medicines are glorified in our culture. For example, in lecture this week we were exposed to different ways that normal bodily functions are medicalized. In birth control commercials, normal bodily functions such as menstruation are rejected, or seen as a medical inconvenience. That’s when they begin to describe how birth control is amazing and how you can do so much more by taking their medicine, like in the example with the girl who takes birth control and was able to go to her beach house to meet new guys and have fun. Her friend, on the other hand, was on her period and wasn’t able to go with her and engage in fun.

One condition that’s medicalized in our culture is insomnia, or sleeplessness. I analyzed a Lunesta commercial (http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7VD8/lunesta-sleepness-nights). Lunesta is targeted for insomnia sufferers. This commercial uses several strategies to try and glorify Lunesta. Instead of showing a bunch of people taking pills and going to sleep, they use the pill as sort of a metaphorical butterfly that swoops into people’s rooms and gets them to sleep. Basically, this butterfly flew into several rooms of restless people, and as soon as it was there, everyone was laying comfortably in their beds, eyes closed with a smile spread across their faces. They talk about Lunesta like it holds the key to some magical place that insomnia sufferers have never been before, a place without tossing and turning, a place where you can wake up feeling fully rested. All the while, disclaimers and recommendations sit in tiny print on the bottom of the screen. This method illustrates how our culture embraces exclusivity. There is an exclusive place of wonderful sleep that only Lunesta takers can go to. One of the funny things about this commercial is that a majority of it is the narrator telling all the side effects brought about by taking Lunesta. However, she relays the information in a calm, collected way as if the side-effects aren’t major or aren’t really a big deal. This contradicts other commercials I’ve seen before, where the narrator explains the side-effects in a hurried manner, trying to draw attention away from these potential threats. There is no patient doctor interaction directly, except for the line “ask your doctor if taking Lunesta is right for you”, which is common in most medical commercials.

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  1. Steven Sochacki says:

    I think the forces that make insomnia require biomedical intervention are economic and cultural. The more important of the two being culture. Not being able to sleep means one may be tired and unable to perform the best at his/her job. This could lead to problems at the job and may end up hurting the person financially. For example, they could be working as a waiter/waitress at a restaurant and get an order wrong. This may cost them the tip from the customer and it may get them in trouble with their boss.

    In addition to jobs, our culture also expects us to have enough sleep for other things as well. An example of this is grade school or high school. The importance of these things in our culture led to insomnia (something that is usually a symptom of other illnesses) becoming an illness itself. Peter Conrad and Deborah Potter mention in their article how things like insomnia become an illness when they write, “Michael Balint (1957) pointed out many years ago that a medical diagnosis transforms an “unorganized illness,” an agglomeration of complaints and symptoms that may be unclear, unconnected, and mysterious, into an entity that is a more understandable “organized illness.”” This helps to explain why insomnia is treated as an illness today and why drugs like Lunesta exist.

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